The move comes as longstanding concern over the quality of PFI design is given an extra twist by the Department of Health's invitation to Prince Charles to help improve PFI hospitals (17 August, page 11).
A Whitehall source told Building that experiments in separate design tenders had been encouraged by the Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment. CABE intends to publish a guide to help clients implement their original design brief.
The source said: "The court centre building is of great significance. Developer-led consortiums tend to look at issues other than design, so we want to make sure we get a quality architect on board."
But he added that the process was likely to be used on only one other project within the department in the next 18 months.
Picking the parties at the same time could be like an episode of Blind Date – you might end up with something really ugly
Stephen King, head of public affairs at CABE, said: "It will be interesting to see how the project works. It seems like a good initiative and ties in closely with plans to make PFI more sophisticated."
Architects seemed to favour the process. One potential bidder said the scheme would act as a benchmark and enable architects to become involved from the outset.
But an industry observer said the Lord Chancellor's plan did not go far enough. He said: "A designer should have a role in selecting a developer. Picking the parties at the same time could be like an episode of Blind Date – you might end up with something really ugly."
He added that the developer and architect chosen might be on bad terms because they had fallen out after working together on a previous project.